The case of Khalid Ali-M Aldawsari, the Saudi college student arrested last year in Texas on suspicion of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction, is set for trial on April 30. Employees at both the chemical supply company where Aldawsari attempted to purchase Phenol and at the shipping company asked to deliver the chemical identified the transaction as suspicious. The employees tipped off the FBI, thwarting Aldawsari’s plans to build bombs to blow up critical infrastructure.
Lawyers for Aldawsari are currently attempting to suppress video and photographic evidence being offered by prosecutors of government test explosions that demonstrate the type of damage that could have been caused had Aldawsari successfully executed his plan. The explosive devices used in the tests contained Nitric Acid, a CFATS Chemical of Interest (COI), and Sulfuric Acid (which Aldawsari already had in his apartment), combined with the same amount of Phenol he attempted to order from the chemical company that reported the purchase to the FBI. The resulting compound is trinitrophenol or TNP, also a COI, a highly destructive explosive, as demonstrated by the government tests. Aldawsari could face life in prison if convicted.
This is another example of how a vigilant public exposed a terrorist plot that could have caused significant harm. Remember that if you see something suspicious or out of the ordinary, say something. Visit the DHS website for more information on suspicious activity and chemical security incident reporting, including appropriate contact numbers.
Ryan Loughin is Director of Petrochemical & Energy Solutions for the Advanced Integration division of ADT- www.adtbusiness.com/petrochem. He provides security education to CFATS and MTSA-affected companies and is a member of the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association (NPRA), Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Associates (SOCMA), Energy Security Council (ESC) and American Society for Industrial Security (ASIS). Loughin has also completed multiple levels of CVI Authorized User training (Chemical-Terrorism Vulnerability Information) which was authored by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
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